Rochester embraces first Mother's Milk Depot at OMC

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KatieAnn McKee a Certified Lactation Councilor places a breast milk donation into the the freezer in a work room at Olmsted Medical Center's Women's Health Pavillion Tuesday afternoon September 27, 2016.
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Olmsted Medical Center opened southern Minnesota first Mother's Milk Depot last month, prompting some celebration among young mothers in the Rochester area. Mayo Clinic says it will soon do likewise.

The genesis for the idea actually came roughly a year ago at a lactation conference hosted by Mayo.

Stacia Kautzer, a lactation consultant at OMC, and a former birth center specialist, was attending the conference when she realized the nearest milk depot to Rochester is in the Twin Cities, 94 miles away. That prompted immediate action as Kautzer sought to create what she believes will be a critical local resource.

After jumping through the requisite hoops, OMC accepted its first donations in mid-September. The first shipment of locally donated mothers milk is expected to be transported soon to the Mother's Milk Bank of Iowa , where it will be processed and sent to regional hospitals for distribution.

"Many mothers have an excess supply and they don't know what to do with it," Kautzer said. "The best thing to do is put it back into the community so when babies are born early or sick, they get it.


"The best milk for any baby is human milk. It's the perfect design for a human baby. There's properties you can't find in formula."

While there are 30 milk depots scattered across Minnesota, southeastern Minnesota has been slow to react. Now that OMC has responded, Mayo expects to do the same within a matter of weeks. Mayo spokeswoman Kelley Luckstein says it expects to open its own milk depot "later this year."

A shortage of mother's milk in 2013 prompted North Memorial Medical Center , in Robbinsdale, to open the state's first milk depot .

"Research shows that there are many health benefits of feeding a baby breast milk, and we are pleased that this opportunity will be available in our community," Luckstein said via email.

Interested donors go through a strict screening process before their donations will be accepted by the regional program, co-founded by Jean Drulis, director at University of Iowa Children's Hospital . The milk must be frozen before it's accepted, but the process has been streamlined with scheduled curbside drop-offs available outside OMC.

Rochester's first milk depot has been embraced by local mothers who have jumped at the opportunity to contribute. Sara Rodunder, a 38-year-old Mayo Clinic nurse, was one of seven who responded within the first 48 hours of the program's launch.

Rodunder recently had her fourth child, and she's already made two deposits at OMC's new depot. After her third child, she had actually sent frozen milk to a milk depot in Ohio — so the curbside convenience in Rochester has been great, Rodunder said.

"It's very important for the sick little babies," Rodunder said. "Some of them wouldn't live without it, so I know it's importance. I thought this would be a much easier place to donate. They even did curbside pickup for me."


Kautzer is hoping that others will follow Rodunder's lead to help fill a growing community need. She says Olmsted County has a pre-term birth rate of 6.5 percent and it's "very common" for newborns to have low blood sugar levels at OMC.

Processed mother's milk helps address both concerns, even if some mothers are still hesitant to embrace it. A recent Post-Bulletin poll found that more than 35 percent of local residents have safety concerns about mother's milk, but Kautzer insists it's a safe, regulated product.

"I know there's some questions about the safety of milk pooled from numerous moms — it kind of icks them out," Kautzer said. "But the CDC and FDA provide input on what they're doing. They wouldn't recommend these babies get something that's dangerous. It's a very safe process."

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KatieAnn McKee a Certified Lactation Councilor accepts a breast milk deliver from Sara Rodender at Olmsted Medical Center's Women's Health Pavillion Tuesday afternoon September 27, 2016.

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